It all started with several boxes of books and a room full of young minds. From there, an idea was born that has grown into a first hand lesson in entrepreneurship.
Since early November, Big Blue Books has been operating as a vendor on Amazon.com. The book sellers, which are rated as five star merchants on the site, are 13 Tunica Academy General Business students and their teacher Evelyn McLean.
Sophomore Sam Melton said the business began as a way to raise money for the school by selling some donated books that were not being used. The class, which includes Cooper Brown, Maggie Gannaway, Jake Graves, Austin Hagstrom, Taylor Hagstrom, Samuel McGee, Melton, Shuna Rollins, Claire Schubert, Madison Smallwood, Taylor Watson, Latavia McKinney and Tyler Harris, soon decided that they need a specific item or prize that the funds could be used to purchase.
“We are going to use what we’ve raised to buy an ELMO projector,” Melton said, saying that the group wanted something that could be used in different classrooms throughout the school. The visual presentation device provides interactive learning for the students, McLean added.
With the groundwork laid, McLean asked the students to write a business plan that could be presented to the school’s board of directors. The class put together a two page report and Powerpoint presentation showcasing the vision for the business, a description, growth trends, organizational structure and potential for expansion. They also requested and were granted permission to open an account at Covenant Bank for the business.
McLean said the board was receptive to the idea and the class got to work. Currently, the class offers 10 different books, priced from $3 to $55.
Student Claire Schubert said the most popular title has been Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McClosky. The Caldecott award winner is being sold for $12. Other available titles include: Cleopatra, Queen of Kings, Winnie the Pooh’s Pop Up Theater Book, Century 21 Accounting Multicolumn Journal Anniversary Edition, Christopher Columbus, Ape (Watch Me Grow), Madeline’s Christmas, Mad about Madeline, La Historia de Pocahantas, and Madeline Reissue of 1939 edition.
Once the class receives an order, they find the book or books in their inventory. They then package it up for shipment, including a personalized thank you note which every class member signs. It is then sent to the customer, who can choose whether or not to leave feedback.
Several Big Blue Books customers have elected to give the class a pat on the back. Shoppers have commented on the speed at which they received the order as well as the company’s communication and the condition of the books.
Students say they are proud to be a part of this effort.
“It’s taught us teamwork,” Cooper Brown said.
Austin and Taylor Hagstrom agreed, saying it’s brought the class closer together.
It’s also given the students experience in the business setting, which some could take to college and beyond.
McLean said she hopes to continue the business with next year’s class. Once all the books that were donated have sold, she hopes to be able to include titles not being used in the school’s library.
“We have some older books that we’d like to sell,” McLean said. “There is a copy of the 1956 U.S. Annual Live Stock Survey and things like that someone might want.”
Big Blue Books will also accept books from the community and offers their current selection to any one who is interested.
“We have sold a book to a parent befre and would be glad to again,” McLean said.
Anything that is leftover once the projector is purchased will also fund a business related field trip for the class. The students said they’d like to go “somewhere fun”, but McLean said she is keeping her ideas a secret. They will likely take their field trip sometime in the late spring.
Until then, Big Blue Books will continue. And the knowledge these 13 students have gained will stay with them long after the bell rings.